Advocacine OriginNovember 4, 2008
“ADVOCACINE” is a contraction of the words “advocacy” + “cine” [Sp.meaning film]. It was coined by Erlinda “Dang” Koe, President of Autism Society Philippines (ASP) as I am, to my ASP clan an “advocacine artist.” See her column Angels Talk entitled “Alyana: Film educated people about autism.”
Dang actually coined that word long before that article got published probably because I produced the first feature-length documentary film on autism, ALYANA—A Study of Autism in the Philippines and had been going around with it since 2006 to screen it in provinces outside Manila wherever there are requests as part of the autism awareness campaign of ASP.
And since I am actually pursuing the film advocacy path centering on “special people,” I find it appropriate to adopt it and name this blogsite “advocacine” as this will contain the trails my films ALYANA and SILENT ODYSSEY are taking — their past, as I am rather late in starting this blog, their present and my thoughts on the future films that I want to make which focuses on special children and hopefully other marginalized groups as well.
But on the side, I am planning to have a separate section for the other films I have done, have taken part of, or shall be working on which are not advocacy in content. Just so, I can “can” in one whole blogsite my filmmaking activities.
Why I turned to making advocacy films has always been my friend’s question especially those who know me as full-pledged film editor of mainstream films. I have in fact, edited all the films of independent producer-director/ CineManila International Film Festival founder Tikoy Aguiluz from “BOATMAN” (1984) down to “XXX.COM” or “WEBDIVA” (2003). The latter is the first digital film blown up to 35 mm and the first film of Juliana Palermo. To them, I would reply automatically that I have been led to it I feel as I have never really imagined myself to be making documentary films, and on top of that, advocacy in nature.
It was the response to my first feature-length documentary entitled TIGA-ISLA (The Islanders/2003), a historical film on Corregidor Island where my parents and majority of my siblings were born that I have realized the great need for films with in-depth study of the subject, and not half-hazardly done.
Incidentally Tiga-Isla was shamelessly multiplied and sold in the island itself by an Australian without notifying me, the rightful and intellectual property owner of the film. Fortunately, I went to the Island to accompany a balikbayan relative. Lo and behold! I saw my own film being sold! (That Australian is suppose to be my economic partner by the way, nevertheless due to my naiveness, if not, stupidity, or simply too much trust…jajajaaaan…well, details to follow in a special section that I am going to write about this to caution other trusting independent filmmakers).
Anyway, after the showing of Tiga-Isla, it made me really deeply think about the importance of giving the audience facts about something they have no knowledge about. With the power of the film medium that I witnessed and experienced myself —film as a means to change attitude and break attitudinal barriers, a means to educate distorted minds, a means to turn the ignorant into knowing souls, a means to give my personal insights across without being didactic—all those came to the fore.
What are the subjects of my interest which would probably be of interest to others too, I mused…
Finally, I have settled on the idea of making a film on sign language—specifically, how sign language is being taught by hearing teachers to Deaf students. I live in Pasay City near the Philippine School for the Deaf (PSD). I used to walk to school and had always seen them daily as I often passed in front of PSD. At times when riding back home by jeepney from school, Deaf co-passengers happened to be always there. How I loved watching them sign must have subconsciously etched in my heart! In college, I had a Deaf classmate named Daniel Pantig, I was so happy and got so interested in trying to communicate with him that I have tried really hard to learn fingerspelling. And we did communicate using simply fingerspelling making me think that sign language is pure fingerspelling!!! Oh well! It proved to be wrong afterall. And I came to know that three decades later!
So, I have started to prepare for my film on sign language—by going to the Department of Education, to Philippine School for the Deaf informing them of my intention to make the film. While in the preliminary process towards the direction of making that film I met my niece Eileen Cruz, the mother of Alyana, my grandniece with autism. She asked me then what film I was doing. When I told her that I wanted to make a film on Deaf persons, I still remember it quite vividly when she said: “Igawa mo rin ng film si Alyana.” (Make a film too on Alyana.) She then talked about tuberous sclerosis and autism which never registered in my mind anyway because they sounded so foreign to me. That time, I only knew that Alyana is “autistic” (not even knowing that it is not politically correct to say that but instead one must say, a ‘child/adult/person with autism’). However it was seeing beyond her mother’s eyes, seeing the anxiety of a mother towards the future of a special child, that made me decide to shelve the film on Deaf persons. “If handling what we may call a “normal” person or regular child is difficult enough, what more with coping and handling a child with autism?” I asked myself that night. So, I worked on ALYANA… from 2003 to 2006. Quite long, indeed!
It had not been easy!!! It was sheer determination and passion to do the work that pulled me through. In the case of “Alyana…” —with nothing except P12000, roughly US$240 that I got from the showing of my film “Tiga-Isla” to buy the initial materials, and with a borrowed camera, I started the work which lasted two-and-a-half years. I wrote to seek help in production to nearly a hundred individuals and institutions which I believed would have interest in the subject of autism. Except for one, nobody bothered to reply. Obstacles after obstacles piled up stagnating the work mainly due to lack of funds. A mini-dv camera was finally donated for the purpose before my first year on the work ended but unfortunately it was stolen… from our house…”akyat-bahay” victim you might say. For four months, the work completely stopped. I worked on something instead. It seemed everything’s going hayward and against the work on autism film. Surprisingly, PAGCOR’s help came enough to buy me tapes, also unexpected help from some friends and relatives. So, I continued. Then, there was a stand still. Funds ran out again. Finally at the end of the second year in the making of the film, the National Commission for Culture and the Art’s approval of my proposal for post-production grant was finally approved. It was in 2006, running on its third year that “Alyana…” was finally premiered in July 20 at the UP Film Center in Diliman, Quezon City.
The rest is history. By now “Alyana…” is on its third year (again) in roaming around the country. Currently, “Silent Odyssey” joins in moving around and alternately showing with “Alyana…” The former touches the hearts, the latter touches the minds. But same kind of positive reactions are elicited from all sectors who came to watch the films.
With the belief that I am being led and guided by the Supreme Power in the making of films for the marginalized groups, I believe therefore that I cannot go wrong…whichever path I take and whichever way I go.
Although making a film is for me a struggle, finishing one becomes always a “triumph.”
P.S. After “Alyana…” it should have been an advocacy film on breast cancer that I wanted to pursue but due to lack of support from the group I wanted to make the film for, I went back to my original plan to make a film on Deaf persons. Having become a true believer in God’s guidance through some events which converted me and my thinking while in the process of making my films, I finally decided to fix my goal of making “SILENT ODYSSEY” (2008). There was a short film that I made before which I titled “BREAKING DOWN THE BARRIER” (2007), sort of warm-up to the Silent Odyssey film. It was about my immersion into the study of sign language and my initial experiences being in the Deaf world. A short and funny film about my thoughts, well-received though when it was shown during the International Women’s Film Festival in 2007 preceding the shortest version of Alyana (97 min) which I specially captioned for the Deaf.